Star Trek: Conquest

If I had a nickel for every Star Trek game that's come out since "Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator" and earlier, I could probably afford to design a half decent one. "Star Trek: Conquest" at first glance looks a bit crap - generic cover (complete with typo on the back of the PAL case, how encouraging), simplistic graphics, no cut scenes or fancy Trek fluff. After playing it for 5 or 10 minutes, I was ready to write it off, but I persevered, and discovered it's actually reasonably entertaining.

Turn based strategic war games aren't infinitely common nowadays, and I've been wanting to play a new one for some time now - I also am not a fan of huge complexity, so I'm often put off by many of the "classics" in the genre. However, Conquest seems to hit the spot. It's simplistic enough that you don't have to think too hard (or monitor a thousand things at once), the interface is very straightforward, and it has enough complexity to keep it interesting and at least somewhat challenging.

Once you've chosen one of the races (Federation, Klingon, Breen, Cardassian or Romulan, each with their own ships, special weapons and specific advantages and disadvantages - speed, strength, fleet captain expertise), you're confronted with a single screen map. Each system is connected by one or more paths to other systems. Yes, it struck me as silly the first time I played it too, but it adds to the strategic element - being able to simply warp anywhere you like would make it too open ended - although perhaps they should have thought of that and not tacked a Star Trek licence onto this game. You start with your race's home planet, which you have to maintain control of to be able to build new fleets. You start with one fleet, and can make two more. Only three fleets? Yep. There's also only three ship types and three fleet captains per race, too - what's with all the threes? Each captain has a different advantage - good at defence, movement or attack with appropriate performance bonuses.

Each star system you capture will have a random encounter at it (Borg, Ferengi and Xindi all make appearances) until it's captured, and once a system is captured, you can build one of two kinds of starbase, one of two kinds of building (mining for more resources or research for more advancements and superweapon charging) and optionally, defensive weapons.

To boldly go where a million strategy games have gone before.

Advancement and superweapons? Each race can build three of a group of superweapons that have various effects including damaging everything at a solar system, breaking links to a planet or freezing a planet temporarily - the more science stations you have, the faster this recharges. Resources are used to build your ships and buildings - different races have different costs for different ships and buildings, naturally. The advancements you get are a list of different items for each race including reducing the cost of ships or buildings, increasing effectiveness of weapons, defence or ship performance, etc. These can be upgraded three times each, and you have a fairly extensive list, so it keeps things interesting - I did actually notice a difference as upgrades were applied.

The battles themselves? There's three options - you can simply auto-complete the battles, you can "sim" them, where you get to watch little phasers and torpedoes fly across the screen between your guys and their guys while listening to amusing (but quickly repetitive) subspace chatter, or you can go into arcade mode. Arcade mode is a bit lame to be honest - you control one of the ships in your fleet using the nunchuck to turn and accelerate or decelerate, and the Wiimote to aim and fire. Each ship has layers of shields around it and a health bar, and you have to take them out before they take you out. Losing the ship you're controlling bounces you into the next most powerful ship in your fleet until you're out or you've won. It's essentially a really simplistic version of the combat in the "Starfleet Command" series on PC if you're familiar with that game.

As mentioned earlier, there's not a lot of gravy in the game - no celebrity voices, no clips or FMV. About all you get is tiny thumbnails of characters from various episodes of various series (in the TNG era) who represent the fleet captains, and some admittedly excellent music and sound effects. The game supports Dolby surround, so that's a nice touch.

The lack of multiplayer really takes this out of the "recommended" pile and slaps it firmly in the middle of the "maybe" section. If you're after a quick bout of cheap strategy and you can still stand the Star Trek setting after the flogging it's taken the last 10 years or so, then knock yourself out. Fortunately, it's a budget release, so it shouldn't be too expensive. Hell, give it a little longer and it'll no doubt hit bargain bins - that'd be the best time to strike.

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